Plants and Animals

Erimyzon claviformis Creek chubsucker

Key Characteristics

Among the smallest of sucker species, the creek chubsucker reaches an average length of 4-6 inches, with an olive-green to brown back and upper sides, fading downward to golden. The belly is pale yellow or cream-colored. The scale margins are dark, giving the fish's back and upper sides a cross-hatched pattern. The sides are marked with distinct or indistinct dark blotches, sometimes forming vertical or horizontal bands. Fins are translucent pale orange to gray, with median fins slightly darker. The mouth is typical of sucker species in general, low with fleshy lips. Adult males have a hooked anal fin, and 3 tubercles on each side of snout during breeding. The creek chubsucker can be distinguished from the lake chubsucker by counting longitudinal scale rows: 39 to 41 for creek chubsucker, and 36 to 38 for lake chubsucker.

Status and Rank

US Status: No Status/Not Listed
State Status: E - Endangered (legally protected)
Global Rank: G5 - Secure
State Rank: S1 - Critically imperiled


CountyNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Allegan 1 1982
Branch 2 1940
Calhoun 1 1982
Cass 1 1951
Hillsdale 2 1995
Jackson 1 1982
Kalamazoo 1 1924
Lenawee 1 1995
Monroe 1 1935
St. Joseph 3 1940

Information is summarized from MNFI's database of rare species and community occurrences. Data may not reflect true distribution since much of the state has not been thoroughly surveyed.


During the spring, creek chubsuckers inhabit small clear prairie streams of moderate and high gradients.  After spawning in the early Summer, they migrate downstream into larger creeks where they remain through the Fall and Winter.  Runoff from agricultural fields containing clayey silt can result in mortality to this species.  The largest populations occur in streams with sand and gravel (Trautman 1981).

Specific Habitat Needs

Clear water needed in: Headwater stream (1st-2nd order), riffle; Headwater stream (1st-2nd order), pool; Headwater stream (1st-2nd order), run.

Natural Community Types

  • Headwater stream (1st-2nd order), riffle
  • Headwater stream (1st-2nd order), pool
  • Headwater stream (1st-2nd order), run
  • Mainstem stream (3rd-4th order), pool
  • Mainstem stream (3rd-4th order), run
  • Mainstem stream (3rd-4th order), riffle

For each species, lists of natural communities were derived from review of the nearly 6,500 element occurrences in the MNFI database, in addition to herbarium label data for some taxa. In most cases, at least one specimen record exists for each listed natural community. For certain taxa, especially poorly collected or extirpated species of prairie and savanna habitats, natural community lists were derived from inferences from collection sites and habitat preferences in immediately adjacent states (particularly Indiana and Illinois). Natural communities are not listed for those species documented only from altered or ruderal habitats in Michigan, especially for taxa that occur in a variety of habitats outside of the state.

Natural communities are not listed in order of frequency of occurrence, but are rather derived from the full set of natural communities, organized by Ecological Group. In many cases, the general habitat descriptions should provide greater clarity and direction to the surveyor. In future versions of the Rare Species Explorer, we hope to incorporate natural community fidelity ranks for each taxon.

Management Recommendations

The creek chubsucker is highly sensitive to siltation and, where possible, has retreated in its distribtution to the clearest available streams. Many creek chubsuckers have been found dead of suffocation, silt packed in their gills, after spring showers increased run-off from nearby agricultural fields (Trautman 1981). Management of this state-endangered species should include the creation and maintenance of riparian buffers to prevent streambank erosion and limit stormwater run-off. Construction projects that further degrade stream habitats such as impoundments, dredging and channelization should not be undertaken where this and other sensitve fish species are present.

Active Period

Spawning from third week of March to second week of May

Survey Methods

The ideal time to survey adults of this species is during spawning runs, after ice melts in early spring. Effective methods include day or night time electrofishing, and fyke, gill, or trap net surveys. Electrofishing for juveniles is best conducted in early spring or fall (Schneider et al. 2000).


Survey Period: From second week of September to second week of October

Time of Day: Daytime
Survey Method Comment: Adult and juvenile fish

Time of Day: Night
Survey Method Comment: Adult and juvenile fish

Survey Period: From third week of March to second week of May

Time of Day: Daytime
Water Temperature: Cold
Survey Method Comment: Adult and juvenile fish

Time of Day: Night
Water Temperature: Cold
Survey Method Comment: Adults and juvenile fish

Gill nets

Survey Period: From third week of March to second week of May

Time of Day: Daytime
Water Temperature: Cold
Survey Method Comment: Adults only

Trap or fyke nets

Survey Period: From third week of March to second week of May

Time of Day: Daytime
Water Temperature: Cold
Survey Method Comment: Adult fish only


Survey References

  • Schneider, J.C., G.R. Alexander, and J.W. Merna. 2000. Modules for Lake and Stream Surveys. Chapter 2. In: Schneider, J.C. (ed.). 2000. Manual of fisheries survey methods II: with periodic updates. Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Fisheries Special Report 25, Ann Arbor.

Technical References

  • Carman, S.M. 2001. Special Animal Abstract for Erimyzon oblongus (Creek chubsucker). Michigan Natural Features Inventory, Lansing, MI. 2pp.
  • Guenther, C.B. and A. Spacie. 2006. Changes in Fish Assemblage Structure Upstream of Impoundments within the Upper Wabash River Basin, Indiana. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 135(3): 570-83.
  • Scott, M.C. and L.W. Hall Jr. 1997. Fish Assemblages as Indicators of Environmental Degradation in Maryland Coastal Plain Streams. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 126(3):349-60.
  • Thomas, C., T.H. Bonner, and B.G. Whiteside. 2007. Freshwater Fishes of Texas: A Field Guide. Texas A&M University Press, College Station. 220 pp.
  • Trautman, M.B. 1981. The Fishes of Ohio. Ohio State University Press, Columbus. 782pp.